Dulquer Salmaan: I don’t understand the ‘pan-Indian actor’ label
Dulquer Salmaan, who tasted success with Kannum Kannum Kollaiyadithaal, assures that more projects in Tamil cinema are in the pipeline
During the eight years that have passed since Dulquer Salmaan made his debut, we have seen him grow more confident and take more risks. It’s just as well as he believes that staying in a safe zone wouldn't bode well for him in the long run. “Our audiences have evolved,” he says. “As their taste is so refined, you want to try and surprise them.”
Excerpts from an interview:
I think it’s fair to say now that you have managed to carve out your own space and identity that is not reliant on the famous name of your father. How did you overcome the burden of expectations?
Things work differently in the Malayalam film industry. You are not guaranteed anything by hailing from a film family. Sure, we are blessed in the sense that we get that first or second chance, and of course, that we are easily identified. A newcomer, on the other hand, needs that one big break to get noticed. We also have the benefit of learning from our parents how to survive and sustain in the industry. We learn to be ambitious, hardworking and become part of the best films. I'm grateful for the opportunities I got.
You are now also a producer. The first production, Varane Avashyamund, was a huge success. The second, Maniyarayile Ashokan (on Netflix), is a comparatively riskier proposition. What drew you to the latter?
I was drawn to Maniyarayile Ashokan because it reminded me of Second Show (Dulquer's debut film). Around five to six members of the team are newcomers. That was exciting. It was important then to learn together and make mistakes together. This being a small film, we knew that it woud not be an expensive learning experience. Varane Avashyamund, on the other hand, was a bigger project, followed by Kurup, which is even bigger.
A line from the teaser of Kurup has triggered discussions on whether the character was being glorified or not.
We were concerned about that. Bad guys in films generally tend to be a little flamboyant and have a style and flair. They probably break the law in pursuit of a lifestyle they want. Simply because Kurup has a stylish element does not necessarily mean we are glorifying it. We are making sure that we don’t seem like we are whitewashing the character, or showing him as someone good or misunderstood. I can guarantee that. But given the fact that he was an NRI living in the Gulf in the early 80s earning a fancy paycheck with his wife, I can't deny that maybe he was a flamboyant, loud character.
It can be said that of late, your acting choices have been unconventional too. You don’t seem to be in pursuit of the lead role all the time.
I believe a film is bigger than its actors. When film buffs, reviewers, or moviegoers pick the best films of the year, they do not talk about the lead actors. Truth be told, if a movie turns out to be good, it will do good to every actor in it. If it doesn't work, the actor shoulders some of the blame. For me, if a film seems special, the size of the role is not a concern. As I do many films a year, I think it all evens out.
Given how well-received your Tamil film, Kannum Kannum Kollaiyadithaal, was, are you looking at more possibilities in Tamil cinema?
Yes. I started Wayfarer Films because I want my name on some great Malayalam content. But I also genuinely love doing a Tamil, Hindi, or Telugu film. I know that sometimes, people think it's a strategy to become a pan-Indian actor. I don't even know what that label means. I don't think that affects the business of my movies. Different languages result in a wider range of characters. I want to explore different cultures, but at the same time, I don't want to miss out on good Malayalam content. I have two Tamil films coming up, one of which is by Brinda Master. There is also a Telugu film coming up.
You are once again playing a cop in Rosshan Andrrews' next film.
Yes. It's a terrific script, and I am quite excited about it. For a long time, we could not figure out the second half of the film’s ending. When we did, it was a Eureka moment. I hope to start working on it immediately after I finish Brinda Master's film.